During the life of the Buddha Shakyamuni, Ānanda was practising the Dharma in the forest near the city of Kapilavastu, the capital of the kingdom of Shakya. While practicing, a frightening preta spirit appeared before Ānanda. The demon said, “You have only seven days left to live, at the end of which I will eat you.” Ānanda ran to the Buddha and told him of the frightening prophesy to which the Buddha replied, “Make a torma of infinite magnificence, bless it with mantra, and offer it. This will liberate you from the fear of untimely death and lead you to accomplish infinite qualities.” From this teaching, the practice of making and offering tormas spread throughout the Buddhist world.
As for the term ‘torma’, Guru Padmasambhava said:
‘tor’ means to give without attachment, and
‘ma’ means completely present.
The essence of the torma is the dharmadhatu, which is the utterly pure nature of the world, and the wisdom of rigpa—it is the indivisible union of emptiness and wisdom.